Friday, September 27, 2013

A pleasant accent

Your accent is hugely important in England.  It indexes your social class.  And your social class greatly governs your life chances.  So British parents who can afford it send their kids to private schools  -- where they will acquire an RP accent  As a result, the 7% who have been to private schools run the country and are, generally speaking, hated by the rest of the population.  Tony Blair vowed to end all that but social mobility under his regime in fact worsened.

There is some echo of that in Australia  -- but only a faint one.  The "official" ideology in Australia is egalitarian and that is widely heartfelt.  Your chances in life can be good regardless of your background and you will not be held back by your accent.  The large number of immigrants to Australia from Europe who have prospered despite starting out with very little English at all are instructive.

Nonetheless, many Australian parents feel that private schooling does give their kids a leg-up and Australia does as result have one of the world's highest rates of private schooling.  40% of Australian teenagers go to private High schools (including Catholic schools).  I sent my own son to a Catholic school.

All schools are not equal, however, and those private schools with the highest academic and sporting standards are in my home State of Queensland grouped as "GPS" (Great Public Schools) schools.

That long preamble was needed to explain the context of a very small event in my life this norning.  I was in the pharmacy of the Wesley private hospital to pick up a prescription when I was attended to by a pleasant, nice-looking and well-presented Chinese lady.  That was not at all unusual.  All the pharmacies that I know are overwhelmingly staffed by well-presented people of East Asian appearance.

What made this young lady different, however, was her accent.  It was a very familiar one.  She spoke perfect English with a GPS accent!  I said to her that she sounded as if she had been to a GPS school and, with a blush, she confirmed that she had:  Brisbane Girl's Grammar. Brisbane Girl's Grammar advertises itself as "the best girls private school in Brisbane".

I was pleased to hear that accent because much of my early life was spent in the company of other women with that accent.  In proof of what I say about Australian mores, my own working class background has never been any obstacle to such associations.  If a young lady knew about Bach, Chopin and madrigals, she had almost certainly learnt it at a private school so my own obsession with that music led inevitably to a  meeting of minds with ladies of a GPS background.

So it was a nice surprise to hear that pleasant and familiar accent coming from the mouth of a very Chinese-looking lady. She will do well and I certainly wish her well. I told her that she would go down well in England -- which she will. A GPS accent and RP are very similar. Her parents invested wisely in the education of their lovely daughter.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A lunch for Anne

Anne has been unable to get about much for a couple of months so had not seen baby Elise.  Now that Anne is walking again, however, Susan and Paul put on a lunch at their place so that Anne could finally see the baby.

Susan put on Reuben sandwiches plus a very rich trifle to follow. Paul of course ate enough trifle for two people and got a bad stomachache shortly thereafter.  We weren't very sympathetic.

We mostly talked about politics as Paul was very jubilant over the advent of Mr Abbott.  We even drank a toast to Mr Abbott.  Abbott has not yet had time to do much since his election on 7th but his mere arrival has greatly perked up business confidence.  As a result, Paul's mining shares have risen appreciably in value and Paul's own business is making more sales.

I had to explain how the probable double-dissolution will work if the Greens block Abbott's agenda in the Senate.  Paul had not even heard of a "joint sitting".  It's disgraceful that you can get a High School education in a good Australian school and not be told  the basics of how Australian democracy works.  But that's modern education for you.

I also explained that the "bad" result in Queensland on 7th was really just a case of the other States catching up with Queensland.  The ALP was already down to a "hard core" in Qld even BEFORE 7th., so even the gain of one seat was an achievement.

Anne brought along a present for the baby in the form of a set of Russian dolls all hidden inside one another.  Susan was fascinated by it and immediately took it apart.  Paul liked it too.

Eating Susan's mighty trifle. She used brownies instead of sponge cake -- which made the trifle delicious but very heavy. Paul was caught out by its unexpected richness and even I felt a little heavy in the tummy that night. I had no supper that night. I was too full.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Brisbane 2013 Festival of male voice praise

Anne finally got me to go along to a concert  -- as above.  She knows I like religious music so she grabbed the chance of the above performance.

It was held this afternoon at the Hillsong church in Mt Gravatt.  There is a huge first-class auditorium there and church members helped as ushers etc.

We arrived just as the choir was filing in and were just in time to hear a rousing rendition of "Advance Australia Fair" as the opening song.  It was a Christian version of Australia's national anthem -- a version much deplored by secularists.  The usual version these days is not the same as the original anyway.  The version given in the program was the orthodox one but that is not what they sang!  All the words of all the songs were projected on a big screen

One of the songs I particularly liked was "Light's glittering morn bedecks the sky".  It was originally a medieval Latin song and the usual tune for it is adapted from Palestrina.  As such, however, there are lots of different versions of it and most are not too impressive in my view.  The version usually sung in Protestant churches is brilliant, however, as is the tune used.  I can't find a decent version on YouTube, unfortunately.  Anyway, the words as sung today were:


Tr. J.M. Neale; melody from 1623

1. Light's glittering morn bedecks the sky;
Heaven thunders forth its victor—cry;
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
The glad earth shouts her triumph high,
And groaning hell makes wild reply.
Hallelujah! (x5)

2. The pains of hell are loosed at last;
The days of mourning now are passed;
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
An angel robed in light has said,
"The Lord is risen from the dead."
Hallelujah! (x5) ’

3. All praise be Yours, 0 risen Lord,
From death to endless life restored:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
All praise to God the Father be,
And Holy Ghost eternally.
Hallelujah! (x5)

The repeated hallelujahs are particularly powerful.

As well as the 50 or so male singers there were two attractive young blonde ladies singing duets.  They call themselves the Elan Sopranos.  At one stage they sang a durchkomponiert version of the Via Dolorosa  -- unusual in a Pentecostal church  -- which normally goes for musical simplicity.  There is a recent video of them singing here

The auditorium was pretty full and, looking around, all I could see was pink skin.  There was a fair age range though.  I gather that the audience was mostly drawn from Pentecostal congregations  -- who are good at outreach

The whole meeting was a lot like an old-fashioned revival hour, but I didn't mind that.  Being totally secure in my unbelief, expressions of faith don't bother me.  I rather admire them.


I have now found a video of that powerful Hymn:

It is Hymn 126 in Hymns Ancient and Modern

Friday, September 13, 2013

Optus never ceases to amaze

Optus is probably not the world's worst phone company.  Some British company would probably beat them for that title.  But they would be in the running.

Would you like to take over somebody else's phone number?  If they are with Optus it is a cinch.  You just sign up with some other company  -- say Dodo -- and tell them that you want the number.  Dodo will then simply ask for it and Optus will give it to them no questions asked.  You would imagine that Optus would ask their customer if he wanted to lose his number or not  -- but no siree!

Sound crazy?  It is.  But Optus have just done exactly that to me.  They cancelled my number and gave it to Dodo -- even though my account was paid in advance and I have had it for ten years without giving them any problems with late payments

I of course protested and it was then that I was told that they perform no checks if another phone company asks for a particular number.  It's obviously a cost-saving measure for them.

After I wrote to Paul O'Sullivan, their CEO, about the matter, they got my number back from Dodo but tell me that they are so hard worked that it will be another week before my account will actually be restored.  Most people who ring me have my mobile number but otherwise it would be a read teeth-grinder to lose my landline for 3 weeks.  It could happen to you.  Change to another provider.

I have been battling with Optus since the year 1999.  You can read some of the correspondence here

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A puzzling event

A cop car followed me home a few nights ago and pulled up behind me when I pulled up.  I hadn't been speeding and the cop did not allege that I had.  But he asked me to do a breath test.  I guess there must have been something about my driving that looked over-confident or something.

Anyway, I had drunk only a small amount of wine with my dinner so would have been within the allowable limit.  Just to be on the safe side, however, I applied my special technique and registered 0.00 on his alcometer.  He looked surprised and I was amused  but that was the end of it.

An anniversary

Anne and I have been together for 8 years now so we celebrated  yesterday -- in a low-key way.  I bought her a couple of bunches  of red flowers and took her that night to the Kafe Meze.

I have been going there for a couple of years so the owner greeted me and we actually snared "his" table out the front. It is an unusual restaurant in that both the very young and the elderly go there.  We arrived just after 6pm so witnessed a parade of fashionably dressed young ladies arriving with their parents or grandparents.

The food was good as usual and again we over-ordered.  One thing we had was a REAL Greek salad.  They also offer an "Australian" Greek salad.  The Greek one does not have lettuce in it but has lots of other good stuff.

Afterwards, we repaired to my place, which was something of a milestone as it was the first time Anne had tackled a flight of stairs after her knee operation.  She did OK.

The day was also Father's day but the only greeting I received was from little Suzy. She is always a dear heart.  I was grieved to hear recently what a rough trot she had delivering dear little Dusty.  I paid for her first confinement so she could go private and I would have paid for her second if she had asked.  I paid for big Susan's recent confinement and, despite a difficult birth, both she and her babe emerged unharmed from the experience -- thanks to top flight obstetric care.  But you have to go private to get that level of care.  I am very fond of both my stepdaughters so am sad that little Suzy was hurt when my money might have prevented that.